I didn’t want to get in the car again. The car was their territory. The street, for the moment, was mine. But I needed the truth, and this was the only way to find it.
“Hey, the car dries up pretty good. Must be that foreign engineering,” I said.
Ono glared in the rear view mirror and drove off, spinning the tires. I lurched forward, but Shachou sat unmoved in the rear left seat. I was next to him, behind Ono, counting the flabby folds on his neck.
Ono forced the car into the flow of traffic and crossed over three lanes. We were heading back toward central Abiko.
Shachou looked over a newspaper—The Yomiuri Shimbun. The front page featured a television news image of the Fukushima plant consumed by waves and a helicopter dropping water onto the plant. The banner headline was “Pray for Japan.”
“Pray for Japan? Bullshit. Pay for Japan, more like. Anyway, where’s the girl?”
“I know where she is, but if I told the yakuza, I would put her in danger.”
Shachou snorted again. “Danger? Let me tell you about danger. Forget the movie heroics. It’s us yakuza who will save Japan. Who do you think the government calls when there’s a job too dangerous for civilians? The military? Hah! Those TEPCO jokers in charge of the nuclear plant? If our men hadn’t stayed to fight the meltdown, you could kiss Japan goodbye. The Sumiyoshi-kai faction stands its ground. And pays the price.”
He threw the newspaper into the front seat.
Something the crazy tramp had said stuck in my mind. “So, the Sumiyoshi-kai are heroes? Dumping nuclear waste in Teganuma Lake is to protect Abiko? Spreading cancer to the children of Abiko?”
If he was surprised, he didn’t show it.
“Danger is relative. That waste is long gone anyway. What were we supposed to do with it? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But why should I worry about cancer in 30 years when people are dead right now in the tsunami? We’ll all be dead of old age before radiation poisoning. You talk a good game, Hana-chan, but you are a risk to our enterprises now. I want that $100,000. But even more, I can’t afford for you to mess things up.”
“I can’t afford to either. If I hand Emi over to you, that wouldn’t be, well, honourable.”
“Honour is a luxury. As I’m sure you can appreciate, in the current financial climate we can’t afford to jeopardise our local arrangements. The recession has hit us hard. It’s not just family restaurants that bar us now, it’s everywhere. Every city feels its duty is to pass a law banning officials from doing business with us.”
He looked out the window at the chain shops passing by in a blur. “Used to be every plot of land, every centimetre of concrete had the yakuza seal on it. It was OK when charging protection money was the accepted thing. But now our customers can go to jail for paying us.
“It’s a constant balancing of risks. A bullet through the door used to be enough to focus the mind, but… well, the politicians who used to be so scared of us are now more scared of the law ruining their future prospects.”
We were approaching the Abiko Station south entrance. All around, people were going about their business. Two short, stooped old ladies were bent over carrying shopping bags. They looked up and stared at our Mercedes pulling up at the station.
A young couple saw the car and hurried into the Doutor shop next to the police box.
“And future prospects, as I’m sure you know, Hana, are the name of the game. So, you can tell your tale to someone who cares. We have no wish to be on the wrong side of the law. This is where you leave us.”
The car pulled up next to the coffee shop.
“Here? I can’t stand Doutor coffee,” I said.
“Not the coffee shop, the police box.”
Sgt. Watanabe strolled out onto the pavement, reaching for his holster.
Start the novel from Chapter 1 here or use the next/previous arrow keys to flip through the book.
That was a chapter of Half Life: A Hana Walker Mystery. I’m publishing a chapter a day in sequence on this blog to promote the book. You can buy HALF LIFE as a paperback from Create Space here or as a Kindle download from any Amazon site including links to the book here at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.co.jp.
The sequel, Prime Life, is coming out in the New Year.